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GRAMOPHONE (07/2014)
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Les Arts Florissants

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149028052824 (ID 425)

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Reviewer: Richard Lawrence

This follows the pattern of Sabine Devieilhe’s recital ‘Le grand théâtre de l’amour’ (Erato, 2/14) by fashioning a sequence of airs and ensembles from various operas into a story. But whereas Devieilhe’s anthology drew exclusively on operas by Rameau, this new programme – devised by Paul Agnew, tenor and now Associate Musical Director of Les Arts Florissants – comprises excerpts from works by various composers ranging from Campra (1697) to Dauvergne (1768).


The title reflects ‘Le jardin des voix’, the biennial training programme for young singers that William Christie founded in 2003 (the group recorded here made up the class of 2013). The links between the numbers are less tenuous than on the Devieilhe recording: Iole’s air from Hercule mourant (1761) leads pleasingly into Aricie’s from Rameau’s first opera (1733), both of them softened by flutes; drunken Zerbin in La Vénitienne (1768) is followed by scenes from L’ivrogne corrigé (1760). But what are perhaps more interesting than the storyline are the links between the composers, with Rameau as the hub: according to Christie, he heard Montéclair’s Jephté shortly before composing Hippolyte et Aricie; Dauvergne was one of his pupils. Gluck composed his opéras comiques for Vienna rather than Paris but he studied the operas of Rameau before writing his later tragédies lyriques. William Christie and his orchestra are as wonderful as ever; his predilection for extra effects, including a noisy tambourine in L’ivrogne corrigé, extends to a wind machine in Les fêtes d’Hébé. The singers have been very well coached and make a good ensemble. Zachary Wilder, effortful in ‘Hâtons-nous’ from Dardanus, serves as a reminder of how accomplished tenors such as Paul Agnew really are in haute-contre roles. Cyril Costanzo has a good, firm bass but it sounds as though the beautiful sleep scene in La Vénitienne is too high for him. Victor Sicard, a graduate of the National Opera Studio in London, delivers ‘Monstre affreux’ to the manner born. The three women are uniformly excellent. Benedetta Mazzucato, more of a mezzo than a true contralto, is stylish and touching in Doris’s plaint from L’Europe galante. The packaging includes texts and translations, good articles, a discography and a specially commissioned short story. Monsieur Rameau’s garden is a delight.


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